Home Cats Q&A Does My cat have a flu?

Does My cat have a flu?

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Question

My cat is sneezing and coughing, could it be a flu? Is there a way to treat it at home? And what causes cat flu?

Answer

Sneazing and coughing alone could be a sign of a number of conditions, including feline asthma, but they are also common symptoms of cat flu. Cat flu has many names, one of the more common is Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (FURI) or Feline upper respiratory disease.  Depending on the severity and if your cat does have cat flu, the treatment is oftentimes supportive, which can be done from home.  Supportive care depends on the symptoms you are seeing with your kitten.  However, it generally involves lots of bed rest for your kitten, low stress, and keeping them well hydrated.  The severity and the types of symptoms will determine if they will need to be seen by a vet.  Here is an article here discussing the symptoms for cat flu and how to treat.

Feline upper respiratory disease involves the mouth, nasal passages, sinuses and/or upper airway of affected cats. It most commonly observed where cats are closely grouped together, such as breeding/boarding catteries or rescue shelters. Coinfections are common and the predominant causative agents are thought to be feline herpesvirus (FeHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV), and account for 90% of all feline upper respiratory tract diseases. Other less common pathogens associated with feline infectious respiratory disease include Bordetella bronchisepticaChlamydia felisMycoplasma felis, feline reovirus, cowpox virus, and avian influenza H5N1.

FCV and FeHV-1 are generally transmitted cat to cat via upper respiratory secretions and aerosol transmission over short distances (macrodroplets over 1–2 meters). FCV may also be shed in the urine and faeces of cats. Environmental contamination is also a factor, especially in multi-cat situations. Therefore, feline patients with upper respiratory signs should be isolated from other pets during their hospital stay in an area with adequate ventilation. Strict hygiene practices and barrier nursing protocols should be followed, including bleaching of cages and other items in contact with infected cats.

FeHV-1 is susceptible to common disinfectants, antiseptics, and detergents. FCV, however, can persist in the environment for several weeks and is resistant to many common disinfectants; bleach (1:30 dilution) is the preferred agent for killing the virus. Cats with upper respiratory tract (URT) signs should be isolated during their hospital stay in an area with adequate ventilation. Strict hygiene practices should be followed, including bleaching of cages and other items in contact with infected cats. Management and prevention techniques should be aimed at limiting the spread of disease through both direct and indirect contact, and by patient vaccination. It is important to note that the FeHV-1 and FCV vaccines are protective against disease, but they do not protect against infection or development of a carrier state. They are designed to decrease the severity of clinical signs.

Treatment is mainly supportive and will be dependent on the severity of disease. Inpatient therapy may require intravenous fluid therapy/electrolytes, antiemetics, appetite stimulants, antimicrobial therapy and/or corticosteroids in some patients. Additionally, most of these cats have been anorectic for days and nutritional support is of paramount importance. Hyporexia/anorexia is common, but can sometimes be overcome with simple measures such as feeding foods with strong odours, for example fish-based cat food, or by warming the food. Never underestimate the value of nursing care and some feline friendly interaction to help stimulate eating. Humidification of the environment and facial hygiene is also extremely helpful and appropriate in these cases. It is important to remember that feline patients have their own set of unique considerations and patient advocacy from the nursing team is often required.

(Source: British Small Animal Veterinary Congress in 2018)